A woman asked us the other night what we do all day. It happens fairly often and I find it a touch rude, but what can you do? Trying to tell an older person what childhood could and should look like without the confines of classrooms and structured extracurricular activities will take more than the brief answer they’re looking for so I normally brush them off. But I have a website, and an hour to spare, so let’s do this thing! My boys have been educated without school to the ages of almost 13 and 10 and that will continue for as long as we’re all happy with it. We see no need of schools, exams, or soccer teams. We use the term homeschool, but some would say we world school or unschool. I don’t like labels.
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A Childhood Without School
My boys’ immediate response to her question was ” Play computer games all day.”
Well thanks kids, that’s really helpful! True, we put no limit on their online time, after all, if somebody tried to take my computer away from me it wouldn’t be pretty. But there is one condition, they can use their screens freely, so long as they do something else too. We have laptops, not tablets, so gaming is limited to at-home only, thankfully.
There is never, and has never been any typical day or routine. I don’t like routines, stuff that. I like spontaneity. We do what we feel like doing, when we feel like doing it because life feels good that way. At the moment we’re in Romania, we’ve just emerged from a harsh winter of semi hibernation. From November-February there is little to do outside the house other than ski some days, toboggan others. Occasionally we’ll get out for a walk, but selling that idea to the kids is generally hard. They’ve just been half way up Mount Everest so I guess they’ve earned the right not to walk for a bit. When snow lies on the ground for 4-5 months and temperatures dip to minus 25ºC you might think we go a little stir crazy but we don’t, we love it. We enjoy this free time to do very little and the winter months are a sharp contrast to the frantic activity of backpacking around Asia, driving across Europe, Dad’s global sporting events, promotional work or a hectic London social life. We pack all of these things into each year so life never gets stale.
We’re not socially isolated here although our social need is small. There are other English speakers in the village that we see almost daily and we all pull together to laugh our way through the obstacles of the big freeze. Our Romanian neighbours are always around, we can’t communicate so well, but it’s always good to see them and find out more about how things are done in this incredible part of the world. Our Romanian improves, word by hard won word.
There are also the big winter events, Christmas, carol singers, the traditional village play, guys with bear skins, whips and cow bells, the huge festival of tradition on the 27th. Life doesn’t get dull. Just watching the changes in temperature, how the ice crystals form and how frozen the stream, shower and toilet system becomes is entertaining in itself. Little things, but fascinating.
Obviously in winter a lot of time is just taken up with survival. Staying warm, chopping wood, lighting fires, cooking, learning to use our resources in the most sustainable, environmentally friendly and economical way. Taking showers and washing clothes become a big deal, a shower is an event that needs preparation, thought and extra wood.
Winter has gone and suddenly the days are long and hot. A million purple crocuses bloomed followed by snowdrops and primroses. The villagers are ploughing and starting their planting and the spring lambs are about to be slaughtered for the Easter feast. Just watching life unfold here is enough.
So back to the question. What do we, as homeschoolers, worldschoolers or unschoolers do all day? Here’s a list of things we have to do, every day, or thereabouts.
- Get up, at any time you want or need to get up.
- Light a fire to warm the kitchen and for cooking, keep it burning all day.
- Chop wood, rotate wet and dry wood and stack it appropriately.
- Fetch free kindling from the village woodyard, a sack at a time. Watch Mihai working making roofing shingles.
- Visit our architect friend, building a luxury house from wood and mud, get sawdust from him for the bunnies.
- Care for 2 bunnies and a guinea pig, fetch hay from the haystacks, dandelions from the fields.
- Planting flower and vegetable seeds in our little garden.
- Cook 3 meals every day, from raw ingredients.
- Laundry, showers, making beds, shopping, sweeping floors, mopping, washing up.
- Go to bed when you’re tired, or when mum’s tired ( whichever comes first)
The above is enough to fill days. Without modern conveniences, without spending lives in cars, time just disappears.
But of course, we add more.
- Skiing, tobogganing, snowman making, for several months.
- Riding bikes.
- Learning to ride a unicycle ( a new one!)
- Archery in the garden.
- Streams, sticks, rocks and tadpoles.
- Running, walking, hiking, exploring.
- Going to the village shop with an extra few ron for sweets.
- Various parties, meals and celebrations around the village.
Is this still not looking like a good way to spend a childhood? OK, lets add the educational stuff.
- Minecraft and Minecraft Homeschool.
- Online courses. Marine science and chemistry so far this year, way above normal age level.
- Various workbooks. See the workbooks we carry here.
- Free study , following their interests.
- Various ” educational” shows and videos online.
- Reading, endless, expensive, reading.
- Planning and organising future travels, currently Egypt.
- Day trips and road trips.
- Chatting online to other kids, in text boxes and in voice. My kitchen is often filled with other kids in far off places.
- Making videos, recording and editing using state of the art software.
- Observing their mum run an online business, learning how that is done.
- Observing their dad training for elite sporting events, learning how that is done.
- Observing many people with different skills and professions running their lives. Learning how life can be done.
So when my boys say they ” Play computer games all day” I really wonder how on earth they got that idea? You’ll note there is no TV above. We don’t own one, substitute computer use for the endless brain suck of kids TV, soap operas and quiz shows. Life is good, we are happy and they are extremely well educated.
Why did I write this? I just read a post from an unschooler describing a typical day. I’ve never described us as unschoolers because I don’t think we are, but our life looks far more unschool-y than her schedule of chores, classes and homework. That seemed a bit weird to me. So take those labels with a pinch of salt, they may not mean what you think they mean.
What do they read?
These books have dominated their childhoods, helped their education along and made sure they are voracious and dedicated readers.
Rick Riordan’s books have captivated them for years. They cover Greek, Egyptian and Norse mythology and have turned my boys into ancient history buffs. They prompted last year’s educational tour of Greece and this year’s trip to Egypt.The Heroes of Olympus Paperback Boxed Set
Their latest favourite, the Spooks series, again, there are many books in the series.
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